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N4T Investigators: Four dogs killed in one neighborhood

TUCSON – Four dogs have been killed in the same east side neighborhood since April. Residents called the News 4 Tucson Investigators because they want the county to take action.

“It’s been terrible. My dogs are all I have, and now one of them is gone,” said Samantha Severson. Her Chihuahua mix was mauled by another dog in August. Pima Animal Care Center records show her dog had to be put down after suffering a torn trachea and fractured skull.

PACC records show that an American Bully named Bella got out of her owner’s yard and broke through Samantha’s fence. PACC says Bella also severely injured Samantha’s other dog. Samantha says it was the second time in six weeks that Bella attacked her dogs.

“I just don’t want anyone else to go through what this is, because it’s a terrible, horrible nightmare,” Samantha said.

Three of Samantha’s neighbors say Bella also killed their dogs. Robert Lopez says when he came home from work three weeks ago, Bella and a pit bull mix were inside his house. “It was horrifying. It was traumatizing,” Lopez told us.

PACC’s investigation confirmed that Bella killed Lopez’s dog and severely injured two of his three other dogs. Lopez says the neighbor’s dogs got in his home through the dog door.

“They had blood on their mouth and they were real frantic, like in a fighting mode,” Lopez said.

PACC says there’s not enough evidence or any witnesses to prove that Bella killed two other dogs in this neighborhood. But their owners are convinced that Bella and a dog she lived with did it. Cathy Sullivan, who dIdn’t want her face on-camera, says her Chihuahua mix, Choco, heard two large dogs barking in an alley next to her backyard fence, and put a paw under the fence. Cathy’s son made the gruesome discovery.

“And he looked over the fence and he saw Choco’s leg and Bella in the alley next to it.”

Sally and James, who didn’t want their last name used, said Bella and a dog she lived with killed their Shepherd mix, after pushing down their fence. “She was protecting the backyard and they dragged her body out into the alleyway,” James said.

William Gambrell, Bella’s owner, told us, “I’m not sittin’ around here trying to cover-up anything.”

PACC has issued Gambrell four citations, including owning a destructive animal and violating the leash law. He said, “Now what my problem is, is that my dog was escaping from the yard.” We asked him, “Why didn’t you fix the yard and make it secure?” He claimed, “I did fix the yard but they wound up actually being able to jump over the fence because of how strong they are, their bodies are, their back half.” We asked, “Do you think your fence should have been made higher so your dogs couldn’t jump over it?”  “Yes sir,” he said.

PACC also said investigators tried repeatedly to contact Gambrell and he repeatedly avoided them.

PACC says Gambrell owned another dog that was recently found dead in the alley behind his house then put in a trash can like garbage. Gambrell told us the dog died of natural causes while he was away, and a relative was wrong to dispose of the dog that way.

PACC Director Kristen Hassen said, “This is really worst-case scenario. We rarely ever see dogs involved in this many possible attacks.”

Bella was taken from Gambrell on Oct. 16. She is in quarantine at PACC and, Hassen said, will probably have to be put down. Gambrell’s boxer mix is also at PACC,  being evaluated.

Hassen said, “What we really hope is that people will be more responsible dog owners. This is a really disappointing situation where someone is failing to contain their dog who is known to be aggressive towards other small dogs.”

Hassen says if you see aggressive dogs loose in your neighborhood, you should try to get photographic evidence, call both 911 and Animal Control.

Gambrell said, “If my dog did anything to harm any dog, if my dog is a bad dog, if my dog is somebody who just cannot function out here, she needs to be put down.”

There’s an old saying, “There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”

Gambrell’s neighbors think he’s been an irresponsible owner.

They say at this point Bella has to be put down. They also want restitution for their vet bills and related expenses. Severson says Gambrell’s dogs ruined her fence and her new one cost $2700.

“I want him to be held responsible and not be allowed to own animals anymore,” Severson said.

If Gambrell wants to keep Bella, he has to pay $1325 for a hearing to explain to a judge why he should keep the dog. Even if the judge returns Bella, she can still be declared dangerous by PACC if Gambrell fails to comply with dangerous dog ordinances.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at or call our tip line at (520) 955-4444.

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Matthew Schwartz

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